Beyerdynamics DT-990 Premium ($369) vs. Sennheiser HD650 ($649.95)
• The MSRP of the Sennheiser HD650 is roughly $280 higher than that of the DT-990—a gap that narrows somewhat at the ‘street pricing’ level.
• The HD650 weighs more than the DT-990, but otherwise offers comparable comfort. Build quality for both these German-made ‘phones is exquisite.
• The HD650 offers levels of resolution and openness comparable to the DT-990, with notably more neutral tonal balance. This superior tonal balance is, I think, what the Sennheiser’s higher cost buys you. By contrast, the DT-990 does show its two signature tonal balance elements; namely, somewhat elevated bass and upper treble response.
• One subtle sonic difference between the two ‘phones is that the Sennheiser’s upper mids and highs can sound a bit overly analytical at times, whereas the DT-990’s upper mids and (admittedly emphasized) highs tends to sound sweet and pure most of the time.
• Both products are good mid-priced offerings, so that which you choose will mostly be determined by your budget (given that the DT-990 is a fair amount less expensive) and tonal balance preferences (given that the HD650 is the more neutral-sounding design).
For the bulk of my tests I used HiFiMAN’s tube-powered EF5 headphone amplifier, but also did some listening through the CEntrance DAC/Port combination USB DAC/USB-powered headphone amp.
Source components included a Musical Fidelity kW SACD player and A5 CD player, plus a Nottingham Analogue Systems Space 294 turntable/Ace-Space 294 tonearm fitted with a Shelter 901 MkII phono cartridge and fed through a Fosgate Signature phono stage. When using the DAC/Port, as above, I listened to CD quality WAV files from a Windows-equipped laptop.
The DT-990 is extremely light and comfortable, and it offers beautiful fit and finish. Those who like highly personalized products may want to note that Beyerdynamic offers a program called DT-990 Manufaktur where—at extra cost—you can order you DT-990’s in customized colors and finishes.
The DT-990 ships in a well-padded, rectangular leather case. The headphone comes standard with a mini-jack plug, and with a threaded, screw-on ¼” phone plug adapter (which was already installed on our review samples).
Beyerdynamic’s DT-990 premium is a very fine mid-priced headphone, and one that offers plenty of sonic resolving power and a compelling quality of dynamic expressiveness. The DT-990 does provide touches of bass and upper treble emphasis that some will enjoy, but that will not suit every taste. Those who favor strict neutrality in tonal balance but otherwise appreciate the signature, high-purity sound that Beyerdynamic headphones provide might, however, prefer the firm’s DT-880PRO.
Beyerdynamic DT-990 Premium 600-Ohm Audiophile Version Headphone
Accessories: as above.
Frequency response: 5Hz – 35kHz
Weight: 290 grams
Sensitivity: Not specified
Impedance: 600 ohms